Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Juanita's Olvera Street

On Sunday, we packed up the kids and stroller and met my parents at the metro station in North Hollywood. From there, we all took the red line subway to Union Station. I took this photo of the gorgeous mural. (above)

We crossed the street and headed over to Olvera Street. Olvera Street is the birthplace of the city of Los Angeles, otherwise known as El Pueblo Historic Monument. The original pueblo was built by the 44 settlers of Los Angeles in 1781. The village features 27 historic buildings with a traditional Mexican style plaza area.
Leo Politi's book, Juanita is all about a little girl and her family who run a small shop or "puesto" in Olvera Street.
The puestos have lovely Mexican names such as "La Paloma" (the dove), "La Amapola" (the poppy), "La Casita" (the little house), "Cielito Lindo" (beautiful heaven)... "The shop 'Juanita' belongs to Antonio and Maria Gonzalez who named it after their little daughter Juanita."

Here the Olvera Street vendors make and sell candies,

toys and pottery, candles, hand embroidered clothing and all kinds of colorful and interesting things.

For Juanita's birthday "there was laughter when someone broke cascarones on Juanita's head." "Cascarones are decorated egg shells filled with confetti."

Leo Politi's illustrations from 1948 have come full circle and are strangely uber modern again. Just look at his color palette: peach, turqoise, moss green, coral, tan, pink, cream and gray. His illustrations are gorgeous!
I remember reading his books as a child and my mother remembers them too. I am so glad that Getty Publications has reissued them!
As a little girl, I also remember visiting Olvera Street with our family often. I loved it and especially the wooden marionette puppets, delicious Mexican food and candy.
" The Blessing of the Animals is a ceremony which takes place every year on the day before Easter Sunday." "On this day the animals are blessed so all will go well with them during the year." Juanita looked forward to this day because she could walk in the procession with her dove.
My mom took this photo of the Blessing of the Animals mural (above). It is painted and signed on the right of the mural by Leo Politi!
The story ends with a lovely bedtime song Duermete Nina with lyrics to sing along to in English. There's a sweet image of Mamacita rocking Juanita to sleep as the old mission bells ring
and Juanita's pink lacey Easter dress hangs above her bed to wear in the morning.


  1. Oh, what an interesting post! I've heard of Olvera Street, but have never been there. I'll have to track down a copy of Juanita. Thanks!

  2. What a lovely post! Last year we made cascarones for easter and had so much fun - thanks for acting as a reminder that from now I need to blow our eggs rather than crack them so I have a good supply ready for Easter time :-)

  3. Thanks for these memories of Olvera Street! Funny I especially remember the marionettes, and the food! It's so great Leo Politi's work will be read by a new generation.

  4. I am a sucker for vintage illustrations like these. I LOVE the colors in this book. Can't wait to find a copy. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Loved, loved this post! Now I definitely have to go back to LA for one more visit. I absolutely adore this big city! Thanks for sharing...


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